BRITISH ART SHOW 9 - Public Engagement Ambassador Project
Alex Vann, a director of RAW, was delighted to work as Public Engagement Ambassador for British Art Show 9 in March and April 2022. In a project sponsored by University of Wolverhampton, Alex worked with Social Prescribing link workers and adult participants in Wolverhampton and delivered 5 workshops, across 2 locations: the University's School of Art and Wolverhampton Art Gallery.
The British Art Show is a landmark touring exhibition that celebrates the vitality of recent art made in Britain. Organised every five years by Hayward Gallery Touring the exhibition brings the work of artists defining new directions in contemporary art to four cities across the UK.
BAS9 is curated by Irene Aristizábal and Hammad Nasar, and presented in collaboration with the cities of Aberdeen, Wolverhampton, Manchester and Plymouth.
These themes were agreed prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and the global recognition of racial injustice sparked by the Black Lives Matter protests of summer 2020. All three are even more relevant now.
34 artists showed in BAS9 in Wolverhampton to look at how we live with and give voice to difference, while also extending our understanding of identity to beyond the human. Their projects often blur the boundaries between art and life, and imagine alternative futures. Through their works, they propose alternative economies and ways of living together that emphasise commonality, collaboration and care. They do so through film, photography, painting, sculpture, and performance, as well as through projects that don’t sit easily in any one category.
Alex chose to focus on the work of one of the artists exhibiting in Wolverhampton: Michael Armitage.
Workshop # 1: Introduction to Social Prescribing Link workers
Michael Armitage's work
Photos © Graham Everitt: Showing the 'imperfections' in Armitage's canvases. These so called 'imperfections' become integral and beautiful parts of the paintings. In the same way people have 'imperfections' but these are an important and valid part of who they are.
In this first session, as well as giving a background to British Art Show 9 and Michael Armitage's work, Alex encouraged the link workers to create their own artwork, using a 2D style to echo Armitage's style at the same time as doing a 'Post-It' note activity about possible practical activities their participants might enjoy and the impact the project might have on them.
Workshop #2: Asian Women's group
Facilitated by Ros Manasseh, this session focused on the use of lumbago bark in Armitage's work. The video above shows the process of the bark being made into a cloth and its importance on the culture of the Baganda people in Uganda.
Alex did his own example paintings and encouraged the participants to make their own paintings on specially sources bark board with the possibility of making Rangoli style designs to put their own culture into the artworks.
Beautiful artworks made by the participants
Workshop #3: Art 'Novices' (i)
For this workshop, Alex wanted to provide an accessible art technique which allowed the participants to create 2D artworks influenced by Africa and decided to use the African Dot Painting technique.
This simple but effective technique uses either acrylic paint and cotton buds or paint pens on black paper / card to paint pictures either of the participants own designs or using templates. Below are downloads of the resources used.
All the work above has been made by 'art novices' and we think it's fantastic - what do you think?
Workshop #4: Experienced artists
Alex focused on the use of animals in Michael Armitage's (and other artists') art. Animals can have many significant meanings and the participants used this as a starting point to create a piece of work which combined an animal that has meaning to them with another aspect which tells us more about their own personalities. Alex's example was a lion with a vibrant Pride flag backdrop.
Workshop #5: Art 'Novices' (ii)
In the final workshop which included some of the experienced artists from the previous session as well as the group of 'novices' we looked at 'newspaper mosaics' as a way of created 2D art - like we'd done in the very first session with Link Worker staff.
Some people chose to create dot paintings and it was nice to see some digital art too - from a talented participate who preferred to use an Apple Pencil and the ProCreate app in iPad Pro.
1. The Influence of European Art on Michael Armitage
2. Armitage's painting style
This was a highly rewarding and fulfilling project all round and some of the participants' artworks will be featured in an exhibition of works by other British Art Show 9 Ambassador projects at Wolverhampton Art Gallery, 24th April - 15th May 2022.
Changing Our Lives Art Exhibition
This is an amazingly proud moment for RAW today. One of the young artists on our Summer 2020 Activities saw her paintings for the Changing Our Lives project, artworks created by young people during lockdown, launched in an exhibition at Wolverhampton Art Gallery.
She got to meet the Wolverhampton Mayor Greg Brackenbridge who took the time to listen to the young people talking about their work and also see the amazing exhibition by the Wolverhampton Society of Artists in the adjacent rooms and talk to adults about their careers in art.
To see her journey starting at such a young age is heartwarming. Please try and get to the exhibitions which end on 5th December.
Our Summer Programme for City of Wolverhampton Council
We had a great experience over the 6 weeks summer holidays, delivering our "Summer Art Activities" programme for City of Wolverhampton Council's #WVHolidaySquad and #YES -Youth Engagement Strategy.
We designed and delivered a wide variety of art and craft activities for young people 10-16 and were totally blown away by the quality of work.
A few photos...
Our programme was delivered in two Covid 19 secure venues: 2 weeks at The Workspace, All Saints and 4 weeks at The Way Youth Zone. We observed the government guidelines for performing arts which also covers art groups like ours and are pleased to report no cases of Covid 19. This includes providing separate resource packs so there is no sharing of resources, social distancing and frequent hand washing among other things. Credit has to go to the young people who worked with enthusiasm throughout and were very sensible in observing these measures.
We reached many young people who were referred via Strengthening Families Hubs throughout the city. These young people were from different ethnic backgrounds; White British, Asian, Pakistani, Arab, Eastern European and Black Afro Caribbean.
A few more photos...!
We delivered some British Sign Language training along the way - in a fun and accessible way - WITH PRIZES!!
Your New Normal. My Normal
When we heard about the Common Ground project called “Your New Normal, My Normal”, organised by Changing Our Lives and funded by the Co-Op Foundation, about tackling loneliness in young people we did a couple of workshops with the young people and entered some of their work for the project. A judging panel chose not one but FOUR pieces of work by the young people which is currently in an online exhibition at Wolverhampton Art Gallery. We think exhibitions are a great way to celebrate the successes of people and go some way to building confidence in skills knowing that there is an audience for their work. Here is the link to the exhibition; https://www.wolverhamptonart.org.uk/changingourlives/
Pom-Poms 4 Loneliness
We were delighted to link up with Pom-Poms 4 Loneliness during this project.
Pom-Poms 4 Loneliness is dedicated to the distribution of home made pom poms in and around the Black Country. Each pom-pom represents a lonely or isolated person and by 'Pom-Bombing' they raise awareness about the situation that can face anyone. Our young people spent a day making pom-poms which they donated to the cause!
Yet more pics....!
We think they have all did incredibly well and have had the opportunity to try many different art forms and find their 'niche'. We received some lovely feedback:
We’d like to thank Wolverhampton City Council for funding this project and OnBoard Corrugated for donating cardboard for our group to use.
Special thanks to our volunteers Wayne, Sarah, Rachel, Sandra and Olivia who made this all possible, and our BSL interpreters Mad and Jemma
Here’s just a few of the things we did:
Our annual review video is now on YouTube! Please spend a few minutes out of your day to see all the ways in which RAW has grown in 2019. We have delivered AT LEAST 118 separate workshop sessions, reached 439 people directly with our work and collaborated with at least 19 different agencies
Here are a few standout moments, though these get added to daily!
Here are a few more images from what has been a 'full on' year, delivering high quality bespoke art sessions to all sorts of community groups:
A typical summer with RAW: creating art from nature; sign song performance; an art gallery and University visit; painting picnic benches and meeting the Mayor of Wolverhampton!
We had an amazing (and busy) time over Summer with various activities aimed at enriching the arts experience of young people in the Midlands.
Working with HeadStart Wolverhampton, we delivered the Summer Arts Programme at Low Hill Hub. We are hoping to enter some of the young people into the Arts Award 'Explore' qualification and part of that is visiting and exploring an Arts Organisation and the lovely staff at Wolverhampton Art Gallery facilitated a fascinating behind the scenes visit. Whilst we were there we bumped in the Mayor of Wolverhampton (as you do!) Claire Darke who invited them to visit her parlour a different day. Which we did, see more about that below.
We also worked with our colleagues at BID Services Birmingham again, on a brilliant 'Messy Nature Art' workshop which started with the young people gathering natural materials from a local park and then creating paintings and 3D items. All the young people are Deaf or Hard of hearing and as RAW members Alex and Gary both sign, this is not an issue!
We think their artwork looks great:
Messy Nature Art
We ran the Messy Nature Art session again with the young people at Low Hill Hub and again we were impressed with the results
We also got them to paint the picnic benches outside which were looking a bit worse for wear!
Knife Crime Prevention
An important issue to us is the prevention of knife crime. We have developed a highly creative and interactive workshop around that which gets young people asking themselves questions about their own paths: where they see themselves years into the future, what qualifications they will need to get where they want to be, who their role models are so that they can make positive decisions about their own futures. We used the huge interactive graffiti screen at Low Hill Hub, created a pop up art gallery with anti knife pledges and integrated sign language into it too. Here are a few pics:
Day Trips to Wolverhampton Art Gallery, The Mayor and University of Wolverhampton
We wanted to take the young people out of Low Hill Hub on a cultural visit to the Art Gallery - as this would broaden their horizons and also go towards Arts Award evidence if they decided they'd like to do that qualification which is recognised on the government's framework. We had a fascinating behind the scenes tour from the senior curator, Carol. We learnt that there are about 18,000 items in the gallery collections, some of which have to be stored in stable humidity because they are so old, delicate and fragile.
The young people then got a tour of the galleries, made drawings of what they saw and asked LOADS of questions!
While we were at the gallery we bumped into Mayor of Wolverhampton, Claire Darke, who was happy to come and talk to the young people. she invited them to her parlour and as she and RAW founder Alex Vann are both University of Wolverhampton alumni we combined a visit with the university where the young people saw Alex's design 'Support Life' which was part of the Wolves in Wolves project. They made drawings of the sculpture and asked Alex questions about it. Again this can go towards their Arts Award qualification.
Here are a few pictures from the day:
A Song for Low Hill
We were pleased to be invited to the Bushbury EMB annual festival. We had a stall doing arts activities for young people who drop in and we also performed a brand new song 'A Song For Low Hill' for which our regular group had learnt sign language for.
Here is a YouTube clip of the performance:
...and a few photos from the day and of the artwork the young people created for the lyrics so everyone in the audience could join in singing.
Alex Vann is an all round creative. He formed RAW in 1997 out of a University project and restarted it in 2018 after working as a graphic designer for agencies and in-house for many years.